Long Time No See…

September 28th, 2006

So, I haven’t written in a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy. Burning Man was my Labor Day Week labor of love from which it took me nearly a week to recover. Honestly, the older I get the harder it is to snap back from sleep deprivation. Back here in good old Davis, I have been focused on the writing of my dissertation and my various other endeavors (radio show, being president of defunct AWIS chapter, having a life, etc.). The writing is coming along slowly but surely. I submitted the first of three chapters to a journal last week for review. We’ll see what they think. I definitely have my fingers crossed. Chapter two is in rewrite. I think it will be ready to send to my advisers by the end of next week though. Hopefully, it will be submitted for publication before the end of October. And then onward to the final chapter of fun. The big date for submission of the dissertation to the Graduate Studies office is December 4th. At this point, I am actually more concerned about getting comments back from my committee in time to be able to make the final edit than I am about my ability to get it done in time. The limiting factor in finishing this quarter seems to be the schedules of the people with the power of the signature. I guess learning how to deal with other people is just as much a part of the learning process as doing the research itself. It still stresses me out though.


June 13th, 2006

So, I have been neglecting my blog lately. The reason is that I am currently trying to focus as much of my energy as possible onto completing my dissertation. I am spending half of each week at the University of Reno counting bird brain cells in the hippocampuses of White-crowned sparrows, and the other half here in Davis working on writing and my radio program. It’s amazing how much time can be spent in front of a computer with nothing getting done when you would rather be writing something else. Anyway, the work is coming along. And, I hope to be able to share bits and pieces with you all as it progresses. Proof of progress if nothing else.

Today’s blog, however, is a hodge-podge of things that I have been thinking about in the interim… mostly political in nature.

I was recently interviewed by an online magazine called W. Weekly for their new section on podcasts to check-out. It was neat to be interviewed, and hopefully this will be just the beginning of good press for This Week in Science. I’m going to need all the help I can get in turning my podcast into my livelihood after finishing the Ph.D.

Recent important items in the news that have caught my attention, and I feel must be shared as widely as possible involve attacks by our government and respected leaders on personal freedoms and media. While it may not seem like much to some people, the end results of each individual bill or budget cut chips away ever so slightly at our freedom. Unless we begin to take action now by letting our leaders know that we do not stand with them in their actions, we will wake up one day in a world much less colorful than the one in which we now live.

I learned that Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who I have mostly respected for many years, has introduced/is introducing a bill which will effectively make it illegal for radio stations and internet radio stations to stream mp3s.

According to local low-power and community radio station activist, Todd Urick:

“people would be forced to use proprietary streaming technologies with DRM (digital rights management). This will cause internet broadcasters to drop high-quality streaming, and force consumers to buy a DRM-friendly sound card. This should aid in killing-off internet community radio and small streamers.”

Read http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004587.php

I have to say that I was suprised to hear that such a bill is being proposed by Feinstein. She must honestly think that what she is proposing will protect musicians rather than only the music industry. Unfortunately, the bill will just end up protecting the homogenizing force that big music moguls these days are pushing. If you are interested in stopping such basic infringements on communication and personal choice in media, please send a letter to Feinstein. Here is a template letter that you can use to get started:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

It has come to my attention that you are working to pass S. 2644 “PERFORM Act,” that would make it illegal for radio stations/internet radio to use MP3 streaming. In a time of unprecedented media consolidation, democracy is losing face. We cannot run a successful democracy if citizens do not have the basic freedom to iterate and rebut ideas and opinions (through access to media, like internet radio). I understand that this bill is aimed at punishing satellite radio for offering its subscribers devices capable of recording off the air. However, adding a provision that would effectively require music webcasters to use DRM-laden streaming formats, rather than the MP3 streaming format has the latent function of undermining basic access to non-corporate, public media across the country and around the world. This bill would punish those it is not aimed at (like community low power radio stations, public radio and college radio stations) and must either be scrapped or re-written to protect our civil rights and our democracy!

Additionally, the word is back out on the street that The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and therefore NPR and PBS, are under attack again this year. It is true that Congress just voted to reduce the CPB budget by 23%, and are looking to cease all funding of the CPB after 2008 even though we just managed to save it last year. Currently, funding is assured through the end of 2008. The House still has to vote to approve the budget cuts if it is to pass, so there is still a chance to maintain CPB funding if people bring back a repeat performance of the outcry that saved the CPB budget last year. MoveOn.org has a petition that you can sign as well as information on how to contact your representatives before they vote.

I found an interesting perspective here. Maybe we can talk the House and Congress into making it possible for the CPB to become fiscally independent before they take all the funding away. anyway, that’s my political two cents for today and I haven’t even touched on recent science/politics news like the FDA’s approval of the cervical cancer vaccine and Harvard’s plan to start stem cell research into cloning (TWIS’ interview w/ Christopher Scott on Jan. 10, 2006 can be found in iTunes).

Fish, fish, fish, fish

March 14th, 2006

I almost worked with fish, but it didn’t work out. But, my friend Becky Kihslinger seemed to get along with the slippery stream dwellers just fine. She recently finished a study looking at the effects of environment on brains of salmon. It seems that where fish grow up has all sorts of effects on the fish that in turn create serious conservation concerns. Read on…

Continue reading »

Piling higher and deeper

February 22nd, 2006

My home office is a disaster. Somehow in the past 5 months of bi-coastal existence, I managed to totally destroy any system of organization I may have previously had. The piles of papers are teetering, the bills threaten to attack. My Ph.D couldn’t seem further away.

I’ve been trying to make bits of progress on cleaning up the space in the past few days since I’ve been home. Maybe it’s the dread of actually having to get work done that holds me back. I don’t know. The bill collectors might be the force that inspires me to get the place back in ship-shape first.

I start back on the research on Monday. Maybe I should call my advisors to let them know that I was gone for another month and a half… that maybe they shouldn’t expect the dissertation chapter drafts anytime soon. The research will be the easy part, tedious, but easy. It’s the analysis and writing that has me worried. For some reason, I am petrified of putting my ideas about my research down on paper. I’ve been working toward this point for 6 years. I should be excited to be so close to finishing. Instead, it just has me scared.

Swallow the fears, my dear, and just get it done. One thing at a time. The desk first.

Where do I go Now…

August 3rd, 2005

This summer is an amazingly intense time for me. I’m working on the dissertation that will allow me to enter the hallowed halls of brainiacs around the world (or are they all just really hard-workers?). I’m trying to get my radio show more exposure and am working hard at various related improvements. I’m also travelling more than I’ve ever travelled, and I’m getting ready to go to New York for three months. I don’t know how I’ll keep the show going while I’m across the country from both my co-host and our studio, but we’re looking at various options that are only available due to the advances of technology.

Continue reading »

Back again

June 17th, 2005

The quarter has ended. The finals are graded and the grades are in. I think that this may have been the last time that I will ever have to TA a course at UC Davis again. From here on out, it will be research, fellowship, and writing. Fingers crossed that everything goes as planned, and I can complete the dreaded dissertation by next March. Wait, or was that February? I’m not quite certain as the date keeps creeping up the calendar against my attempts to get things done in a timely manner.

At least I am finally collecting data! I have found a microscope arrangement that is available every now and again, and which people have been kind enough let me use on those occasions. I have measured 8 entire hippocampuses. I’ve also maybe found another piece of important equipment for the measuring of the telencephalon. Finally! However, even though the measuring seems to be moving along, I have found that the slides I coverslipped are coverslipped incorrectly, and must be re-slipped in order for me to be able to make any neuron counts. Some days I think I should just shoot myself… one step forward, two steps back. March… yes, March.